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My booklist has taken an R-rated twist

I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill.  Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!).  Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.

 

Tucker Max

Tucker Max

Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing.  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.

For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit.  He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly.  I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular.  If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
  • Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  • Author: Tucker Max
  • Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)

candygirlOn-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody.  Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota.  The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill.  This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things.  Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
  • Author: Diablo Cody
  • Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)

Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged.  Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).

Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane.  The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact.  Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
  • Title: Striptease
  • Author: Carl Hiaasen
  • Publisher: Vision
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Cover Blurb:  “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society BookSweet but never boring.  Intense but never overdone.  Inspiring but never preaching.  Loving but never raunchy.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.

Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success.  This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”).  Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.

The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II.  You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor.  Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.

This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word.  Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.

Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book  appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches.  I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A
  • Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Publisher: Random House
"Summer of George" book club taking a break from intellectual discussion

"Summer of George" book club taking a break from intellectual discussion

I don’t knit (though I wish I could), but I do belong to a semi-monthly book club, a concept that also sounds rather old lady-ish.  “Summer of George” (named after a random Seinfeld episode, no one seems to be able to remember why we call ourselves that) has been together since last November, and in the four months since have managed to find time to in our busy lives to get together and have intellectual discussions.

In reality, I think the eight of us (missing two from the picture above) gather together to eat freshly baked goods, drink wine, catch up on each others live, gossip (the media really needs to leave Jessica Simpson alone on her weight issue), and then manage to find time to discuss our latest book, aka intellectual discussion.

The January-February novel we tackled was a pretty heavy choice – “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, the 1998 winner of the Nobel prize, the highest award in literature.  Before reading the book, I was remembering how when I was younger my friends and I used to play “blind” – where we would take turns putting on a blindfold and leading each other around a store, house, etc. to see what it would be like.  That innocent attempt at living without sight seems so trivial when faced with a book that brings up an unspeakable epidemic.

I am struggling with how to review this book – it is an epic novel and an extraordinary view on humanity, both from the aspect of just how low people can stoop, as well as the ability to survive against all odds.  Saramago takes us to a place full of horror and the degradation of society.  While even in the midst of the loss of all dignity and material things, generosity and finding beauty in the spirit of others still manages to exist.

Taking place in an unnamed city, country, that could feasibly be anywhere, one man is suddenly struck by a “white blindness. ” Opposite the idea of darkness typically associated with the blind, this affliction leaves leaves people with whiteness, as if they “were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea.”  The government tries to contain this epidemic by putting the first few hundred people struck blind into an ancient mental asylum facility to fend for themselves, with no leadership, health care or seeing eyes – except one.  The reader is aware that the “doctor’s wife” still has her sight (beyond all reason), though she claimed blindness to be quarantined with her husband.  This knowledge is privy to few, and eventually to a sort of rag-tag family unit that she leads out of quarantine, into a city in which every other person is blind, searching for food in the midst of human excretement and utter filth.

There are bonds forged in this novel, between characters who are never named or given much in the way of physical descriptions.  Through the shared humiliation of rape by a gang of blind renegade men, to the sharing of what little food is had, to the loss of life that was known before, the characters survive in an example of camaraderie and survival not to be rivaled by many other stories. The people are turned into animals by circumstance.

This was not an easy book to read.  It gets very dense in the middle, discussing survival and the more tactile problems like overflowing bathrooms (this book mentions bodily functions more than necessary, I believe) and simply all the menial aspects that become so important when unable to see.  I also tend to be a stickler for traditional grammar, and Saramago throws the MLA book out the window.  Run-on sentences with few dialogue indicators make this a book you have to stay actively involved with and can’t just ingest without putting forth intense focus and concentration.

I almost wonder if I am not a deep enough person to truly understand and appreciate this book.  While not a page turner that I was compelled to finish in one night, I have found myself reflecting on this novel in the days since I read it.   I would suggest this be a book you read with a discussion outlet available, I appreciated it more with the feedback from the other book club girls.

Alright my mini book report here needs to come to an end.  I will come back and edit this post as soon as I get around to watching the movie-tie in that just came out on DVD – Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore are in it, so pretty big names means it must be a decent movie?  I am curious as to how all the filth and violence will be portrayed, not to mention the struggles the actors must have faces pretending to be blind.blindness

  • Title: Blindness
  • Author: Jose Saramago
  • Publisher: Harcourt
  • NovelWhore’s Grade, Reading Enjoyment: C
  • NovelWhore’s Grade, Memorability & Impact: A

I used to love John Grisham, he could do no wrong.  From the “The Pelican Brief” (which I’ve read at least seven times), to bawling while finishing “The Chamber,” to the more intense page turners “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill” – they were all wonderful.  I used to be able to pick up the latest Grisham novel and know I was in for a good time.

I had been looking forward to yesterday for awhile.  Not only was I taking the train to meet my mom and sister half-way for a shopping spree (someone has to support this dismal economy!), but I knew I would have quality train time to finish a couple books without distraction. Grisham’s legal thriller “The Appeal” from 2008 was on the top of my list.

Taking place in Bowmore, Mississippi, a sad little town that mammoth company Krane Pharmaceuticals has turned into “Cancer County, USA,” it’s a simple case of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath.  The novel opens with a huge verdict of $41MM awarded to a woman whose son and husband have both died as a direct result of the poison from Krane that ended up in the water system.

From here, the book goes horribly wrong.

Spinning off in tangents – religion, supreme court, bought politicians, local banks and bankruptcy, class action suits, greedy CEOs – while I won’t deny all the tangents somehow link back to the original verdict, there is so much going on that as the reader, it’s impossible to focus on the bigger picture or get attached and relate to any of the characters.

"The Appeal" - already delegated to my bag of books to donate, unworthy of taking up space on my book shelves

"The Appeal" - already delegated to my bag of books to donate, unworthy of taking up space on my book shelves

And the ending… wow.  You hope for some character growth, and while it’s probable, the book ends with quite a few threads left hanging.  Spoiler alert: I may be unrealistic, but I like to see karma come back in some form.  I was hoping against hope the evil CEO and his co-conspirators aboard his mega-yacht in the last chapter would be the victims of some sort of boat explosion/lightning strike/iceburg hitting event, but it was not meant to be.

But please, by all means if you feel differently let me know.  Am I jaded? Expecting too much of Grisham?  Too naive to appreciate a book with a disappointing ending?

My advice: If you’re looking for a big-business trial book, try Grisham’s old school (1997) “The Runaway Jury,” in which a big tobacco company is taken to trial by a grieving widow.  I read this book a decade ago and still remember the plot and characters.  “The Appeal,” on the other hand, is about to be forgotten as soon as this post is published!

  • Title: The Appeal
  • Author: John Grisham
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: D

Wow, I feel this blog is like a tattoo – once you get started it becomes addicting and you want to add more and more (while I have no tattoos myself, I’ve been told this is true…). I would like to send a big thank you to both Nick and Jaxibella, while I have no idea how each of you discovered my blog I am so excited you did!

As I sit here drinking coffee in my pajamas looking at the foggy day out my window, in awe of the www (world wide web), I think about what else I am willing to share.  What immediately comes to mind is the sketch drawing I’ve been meaning to frame and hang on my wall for inspiration from Antoine De Saint Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”

My advice to you (and I tend to give decent advice, at least when my beer goggles aren’t in place at 2am) is to get out and buy this book.  An even $10 at any book store (though I suggest supporting your local independent seller) it will change your life.  A mere 85 pages, with pictures included, this is a story that will stick with you.

A life fable wrapped up in a cute fairy tale, this story encourages you to never just accept things at first glance and to always look deeper, both at the object and within yourself. Similar to Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” (we’ll look at that book another time), it encourages the reader to follow dreams and reminds each person to “never fully become a grown up” – quote courtesy of an old friend.

From the back of “The Little Prince”: “And the pilot realizes that when life’s events are too difficult to understand, there is no choice but to succumb to their mysteries.”

The Little Prince, enlightening on an abysmal Chicago day

The Little Prince, enlightening on an abysmal Chicago day

  • Title: The Little Prince
  • Author: Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  • Publisher: A Harvest Book, an imprint of Harcourt, Inc.
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A

For as much as I read the writings of others – their deepest secrets, hopes, desires, scandalous tales and laughable stories, I am selfishly terrified to share my own.  As public extrovert and closet nerd, I am engaged in a secret love affair with the quiet written word, and the concept of putting myself out there (aka this public blog) to be at the expense of society is not one I’ve taken lightly.  Probably why I’ve been trying to write this first post for three weeks now.  As my only two friends who know I’m attempting this quest have so kindly pointed out, I do have the power to delete, re-write, or just cover my eyes and live in ignorance that this will actually ever be read.  So, here goes nothing.

In my “moat” of partially read books which surrounds my bed (seriously, there are at least ten down there at any given time) there are a couple sophisticated novels I was hoping to open my new, exciting, literature focused-blog talking about. Then I realized I was trying to be pretentious, and having zero fans don’t know why I feel as if I have to start out on a classy note.

Last night, being unemployed (hm I conveinently forgot to mention that) I grabbed a book off my shelf to read before drifting off to sleep.   While I don’t have a strict bedtime, I do try to stay on schedule to get up before 9am so I’m not a total loser.  Since it was already close to 11 when I was going to bed (The Bachelor was pushed back an hour due to Barack’s speech, so Jason didn’t break Naomi’s heart until 10) I was only expecting to read a few chapters.

I somehow became incredibly immersed in “The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.”  Ever heard of it?  Doubtful, as I myself found it in the “75% off already-reduced clearance price” bin at the Barnes & Noble After Christmas Sale – obviously not a best seller.

After a rather slow beginning, I began to enjoy the book as it unraveled the story of Sissy, Peewee and Parker, jumping from current time, back to 1956, and even further into Sissy’s childhood, all to set up the climatic murder that was alluded to in the very first chapter.  While not a particularly happy tale (Sissy got pregnant at 16 and married the son of the baby’s father, got that?), the story did effectively bring the characters to life and allow them each to grow and develop relationships that were believable, fallible, and (scarily enough) relateable.

I suggest this book to any woman who has ever felt stifled in a small town or from mistakes and decisions made at too young an age. You will laugh and cry alongside Sissy, and may even end up learning something about yourself.  While I don’t suggest this for a night of intellectual reading, it could generate great discussion and reminiscing of each woman’s own scandalous teen years at a book club.

Needless to say after staying up to finish this book I missed my bedtime, which led to oversleeping my alarm and not getting up until 10am – a luxury of the unemployed.

Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc

  • Title:  The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
  • Author: Loraine Despres
  • Publisher: Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
  • NovelWhore’s Grade:  B

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